It's been almost 8 weeks since I went to Alonissos - in pursuit of learning, of course! It's a hard life....
Finally I have made time to reflect on my week's learning at the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy and the teaching I absorbed after my daily commute on foot up the hill from Votsi, past citrus trees and bougainvillea, to Professor Vithoukas' Academy. Apparently I was lucky - it was certainly hot, but not like previous years. But first, how I got there.
It was quite a pilgrimage to Alonissos. Flying through the night from Heathrow to arrive in Athens in the early hours.... hopping on a twin prop plane and flying through dawn and sunrise to get to Skiathos, with its alarmingly tiny airstrip..... waiting for the ferry to arrive in Skiathos and meeting one of the teachers, Professor Jorgos Kavouras, at the ferry terminal..... sailing past many islands to arrive in Alonnisos.... catching a lift up the hill to Votsi, the village stayed in, and forcing myself to stay awake despite no sleep since Saturday morning so I could sleep through Sunday night ready for the morning's lectures!
This was the first time I'd met Professor George Vithoulkas in person. I found his energy and enthusiasm empowering, and his humility was almost a surprise. In person George is smaller than I'd imagined from the videos I have seen of his lectures, and he somehow reminded me of wise Yoda (I have 2 small boys so my knowledge of Star Wars is greater than it would be otherwise!): magnanimous, wise, compassionate and humble. George started the course optimistically by saying "I have the impression that things for homeopathy are going the right way in the world." This was music to the ears of beleaguered British homeopaths, used to a somewhat more negative outlook with regular attacks on the provision of homeopathy in the media. This optimism was echoed by the German Professor Jorgos Kavouras,who joined Professor George Vithoulkas in teaching this course.
A day in the of an International Course Student...
Here is the flavour of a typical day!
Waking in the morning in my hotel room and getting myself a breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruits and nuts whilst admiring the beautiful sea views, before packing my old but trusty laptop into my bag and walking to meet colleagues in the village. Off up the hill, past huge barking dogs, for a 15 minute trudge (which got easier as we got fitter!) to the Academy at the top of the hill.
Arrival at the Academy meant a welcome sit down and large drink of water to get back to normal temperatures before setting up my desk in the main lecture hall. George might open the day, and Jorgos would take the first session - discussing long and involved cases consultation by consultation, going through each prescription and why stick with it, why and when to change it, and all the questions that raised for us. This is unusual, to have such a detailed foray through case taking and valuable as this is like everyday practise - rather than the 'wonder cases' often saved for conferences! I was impressed at Jorgos' professional dedication and humility - his openness to sharing the warts and all nature of his cases - to a group of fellow professionals. He shared cases of MS, trigeminal neuralgia and hypertension, to name a few, but the aim was always to show the beautiful how and why of prescribing a remedy to fit the 'whole person'.
Other topics could be more philosophical - for example, discussions about infectious diseases like SARS and the role of homeopathy and allopathy, a specific illness like hydronephrosis or the state of homeopathy in the world.
Of course, there were breaks - and it was wonderful and a surprise to catch up with fellow alumni from my University course: people I've not seen for a decade and yet it felt like yesterday discussing lectures and students of old. And it was a chance to get to know new people and find out how homeopathy is being treated in their countries - generally a lot more positively than in Britain!
After more lectures a trip down the hill to lunch was the routine! Dimitri's restaurant with its Greek salads and delicious fresh cooked food a leap in life quality compared with grabbing a sandwich at lunchtime between patients! I managed to explore a little in the long lunch break, and found a beautiful little cove just down the hill from Votsi visited by Greek and foreign tourists. A coffee and the restful nature of staring out across the beautiful sea with green mountains rising from the depths did so much to restore and renew my soul that if I were my own doctor I would prescribe this as an annual trip to ensure that I can rebuild my energy after a year of supporting others!
One of the most fascinating parts of the course was the live cases. These might be in the morning or afternoon/evening. George, now in his mid-eighties, still takes 'live cases' where the patient sits in clinic with him and the case is simultaneously broadcast (and translated) to all of the students sitting in the hall. I won't disclose details due to confidentiality, but there were patients of all ages, from babes to elders, with a wide range of mental, emotional and physical symptoms and difficulties. Some of these patients have come to the clinic on the annual International Course for a couple of years and those that had seen them before remarked on the improvement in their health.
George's precision in case taking and detective-like, relentless search for the best remedy was an inspiration. His knowledge second to none and I picked up some good tips on how to pursue the quest for this remedy in my own consultations, using the computer as an aid to intelligent prescribing. Wonderful!
Of course, a trip back down the hill to a restaurant for a meal before bed and glass of Retsina was the perfect end to the day. Chats with great colleagues late into the evening about the day, life and the Universe helped put everything into perspective and 'logged' the day's teachings firmly in my mind.
So, to finish, I share a Youtube video celebrating 20 years of the International Course at Alonissos. Enjoy! Who knows, I may even see you there one day......
Joanna Shipley RSHom, Registered Homeopath. Loving homeopathy and natural health and passionate about sharing through practice and teaching. Lecturer and tutor at Salisbury Homeopathy College. Informal talks, courses, workshops and provide one to one consultations for all ages.